The Stalingrad Madonna

The Stalingrad Madonna is an image of the Virgin Mary drawn by a German soldier, Kurt Reuber, in 1942 in Stalingrad (now Volgograd), Russia, during the Battle of Stalingrad on the back of a captured Soviet map.


The piece is a simple charcoal sketch, measuring three feet by four feet (900 mm × 1200 mm). Mary is depicted wrapped in a large shawl, holding the infant Jesus close to her cheek. On the right border are the words Licht, Leben, Liebe (“Light, Life, Love”), from the Gospel of John. On the left, Reuber wrote Weihnachten im Kessel 1942 (“Christmas at the Siege 1942”) and at the bottom Festung Stalingrad (“Fortress Stalingrad”).  Kessel (“Cauldron”), is the German term for an encircled military area, and Fortress Stalingrad was the label for the encircled army promoted in the Nazi press.

Stalingrad Madonna

madonna stalingrad

The Madonna was flown out of the siege just before Stalingrad fell and made it back to Germany, since 1983 being on exhibit in the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtniskirche church, Berlin.

Lanser Kurt Reuber, however, died in a Soviet prison camp in 1944.

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